Skullgirls Dev's New Action-RPG, Indivisible, Shows Promising Fighter-RPG Fusion

Timing is everything.

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A classical RPG isn't necessarily the next step one would expect from the creators of the fighting game Skullgirls, which makes Indivisible something of an oddity. While it still has room for growth and polish, a recent hands-on showed how Lab Zero is merging its unique fighting sensibilities with classic genre tropes.

The fighting influence was most immediately apparent in the battle system, which operates with a rhythm and intensity not often seen in RPGs. Each of the characters is assigned to a face button that can be used twice with a cooldown timer. On top of those basic commands, each one has an up and down attack, and breaking an enemy's defense with these powerful blows leaves them more vulnerable to subsequent attacks.

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It's the nature of fighting games to offer a great deal of depth from the timing and combinations of relatively simple commands, and the same is true for Indivisible. Breaking an enemy's guard and then following up with well-timed attacks, attuned to your enemy's weaknesses, feels very much like a fighter--to the point that at first I would often trip myself up trying to hit the next command with the rhythm of the fight, not realizing my cooldown timer hadn't refreshed yet. It's a system that definitely took some recalibration to grasp, but once I did it felt very satisfying.

The Skullgirls influence can also be seen in several other elements. The art is a unique blend of western and anime-inspired styles with clean, colorful compositions and expressive faces. The writing is irreverent and often feels playfully anachronistic for its fantasy setting.

The traditional RPG elements can create issues familiar to that trope as well. In some areas of the demo, I was clearly under-leveled and out of my depth. Though I was assured that this was an issue of balance in the demo, it went to show how the realities of RPGs still apply. Though the combat system is an exercise in timing and skill, there's simply no substitute for being leveled appropriately to an area. It also had its share of placeholder images and text, suggesting the studio has some elements to finish before launch.

Indivisible is slated for this year but it has no firm release date, so the studio has time to put on these finishing touches and get the balance just right. What we've seen already is a promising start, blending genres in a new way that makes the marriage of fighting and RPG elements feel natural.

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